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Screechin' Halt

After ten seasons of playing Screech on Saved by the Bell, Dustin Diamond decided to reinvent himself by trying his hand at comedy. To do that, the most unavoidable star of the TV show that no one likes, yet everybody seems to watch, wisely switched back to the moniker of his birth. Then, armed with more dignified press photos and a goatee, he began touring the country doing stand-up. Now, he knows what laughter sounds like when it's not canned.

Still, questions remain: Could he have done more to prevent co-star Elizabeth Berkley from doing Showgirls? (He denies prior knowledge.) What exactly is his relation to look-alike Beastie Boys bassist Mike Diamond? (He claims none.) In the girl department, does it help or hurt to be an actor internationally known for the voice-cracking character of Screech? (One witness claims to have seen Diamond surrounded by members of the opposite sex after a gig at Wayne State University, where he was heralded as the biggest celebrity to visit since Ted Nugent.) And why on earth would the work of Diamond and his TV nerd counterpart Jaleel White, a.k.a. Urkel, end up on the cutting-room floor of the '80s flick The Monster Squad? (That's a tough one, especially since Diamond and White were brought together again for bit parts in this year's Big Fat Liar.)


Dustin Diamond

Spellbinders, Marq*E Entertainment Complex, 7620 Katy Freeway

8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday ($10); 7:45 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, and 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday ($20). For more information, call 713-22-FUNNY.

Diamond told the Onion AV Club that he's confident he won't be pigeonholed as his most famous character because he's completely different from Screech. But clips from his chess-tutoring video cast this theory in doubt. (Diamond really is a champion player.) Not helping matters much is his decision to play bass in his band, Salty the Pocketknife. One can think of better ways to recast one's image than following Keanu Reeves's slow descent into Dogstar.

A better way to keep from being the butt of jokes is to try telling a few. Which he'll do this week on stage.


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